The Senate Judicial Confirmation Committee unanimously — and without debate — voted Monday to recommend Gov. Mike Leavitt's nominees for the Utah Supreme Court for confirmation by the Senate.

The decision came after two sometimes controversial hearings by the committee on the governor's nominees to fill two vacancies on the state's high court, 3rd District Judge Ronald E. Nehring and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill N. Parrish.

"We planned to be rigorous and exhaustive, and I feel we were," the committee chairman, Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, said. "We were committed to hunt down anything we felt uncomfortable with. . . . We're walking away feeling we did our job."

Buttars predicted the Senate will approve the committee's recommendation.

"I'm sure, I feel absolutely certain it will pass," he said. The final vote to confirm the appointments of Nehring and Parrish has been set for 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Both said after Monday's five-minute meeting they had no complaints about the process.

"I feel good," Nehring said. "It was a very fair and vigorous inquiry."

Parrish agreed she was treated fairly by the committee, which had quizzed the nominees on everything from their views on controversial issues to more personal concerns, including whether she had the time to devote to the job as the mother of five young children.

"They're just trying to figure out if we're in a position physically, mentally, emotionally and commitment-wise to do the job," she said. "I think we have unique situations. His might be his health. Mine might be family responsibilities. But I think that's a legitimate consideration."

Parrish, 41 and a graduate of Yale Law School, would be only the second woman to serve on the five-member panel.

The senators had focused more on Nehring's health. The judge, 55, is being treated for cancer. He brought his doctor to the committee's first hearing to handle questions that included how long he could be expected to live.

Sen. Patrice Arent, D-South Cottonwood, said after making the motion to approve Nehring's nomination that "he has answered questions beyond what I would have ever thought would have been asked of any nominee."

Nehring was also pressed about an order he had signed enforcing a Utah Judicial Council decision to keep courthouses "weapons-free" zones despite a 2002 law requiring the installation of gun lockers.

That issue sparked tension between lawmakers and judges and helped lead to the Senate's newfound interest in the governor's nominees for court appointments. Both Nehring and Parrish told the committee they believed in judicial restraint.

They were less forthcoming on specific issues that might come before the court, such as abortion rights or the separation of church and state. Each cited ethical rules that prohibit judges from revealing how they might rule in a potential case.


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